Environmental protection to push growth model change
China’s increasingly strict environmental protection measures are forcing a change in its economic development model, even though some are worried about a possible negative impact to the economy.
Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, the government has been on a campaign of strict law- enforcement against pollution. And since 2016, there have been four rounds of environmental inspections nationwide to monitor production and deal with pollution problems.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection ( MEP) sent eight inspection teams to the provinces and regions of Jilin, Zhejiang, Shandong, Hainan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Tibet and Xinjiang as part of the fourth round of environmental inspections from August 15- 24.
The inspections focused on prominent environmental issues that are being closely watched by the central authorities, Jiang Jufeng, head of the Tibet inspection team, told the Xinhua News Agency.
Norgyel, director of the Tibetan Environment Protection Department, told Xinhua such inspections will help improve environmental protection in Tibet in a more scientific and standardized way and help strengthen the region’s function as a stronghold for the country’s ecological security.
In this latest inspection, members of the public tipped off 13,826 cases to the inspectors and 2,115 enterprises were fined a total of 94.49 million yuan ($ 14.33 million). The police also detained 146 people on suspicion of causing environmental pollution.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has stressed ongoing efforts in building an ecological civilization by adhering to green development concepts, Xinhua reported on Monday.
Xi made the remarks in an instruction on the achievements of a forest farm in northern Hebei Province.
He said that efforts to pursue green development and ecological civilization should be made generation after generation to create harmony between people and nature, and leave a better environment for future generations.
The strict inspection work by the central government has aroused questions as to whether the high standards needed for environmental protection can be put into practice.
Experts and officials with the MEP blame local governments, as local government officials do not always act in the best interests of their districts, and there is dissent online from those who contend that environmental protection efforts damage economic growth.
“In the past, local governments’ top priority was GDP growth, which is why they looked away from the great levels of pollution when factories could bring fast economic growth,” Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times.
Starting in February, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council jointly announced that the evaluation of officials will focus more on environmental protection results rather than mere GDP data, and have shifted China’s development model to pay more attention to the environment.
However, instead of tackling emissions, some local officials just close down factories for good.
Bie Tao, Director General of the Department of Policies and Laws of the MEP, said that “the MEP opposes some local governments’ behavior of nonfeasance and indulgence on pollution, but also opposes the reckless law- enforcement to simply shut down polluting companies,” Xinhua reported.
The government should show zero tolerance toward polluting factories and companies, but this does not mean a blanket policy of ruthless shut downs, because this will harm the companies and the economy, Ma said. Instead, the government should help polluters to improve their systems, he said.
“Environmental protection can also bring new opportunities for economic growth,” Ma noted.
China’s green economy, involving environmental protection and energy conservation, has reached 1.6 trillion yuan, which is expected to double by 2020, according to the Economic Information Daily.